Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi insisted yesterday the only way out of Italy's political deadlock was for his centre-left rivals to accept a coalition deal that would give him a share in power.
Berlusconi met President Giorgio Napolitano yesterday after centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani failed to end a month-old stalemate since an election last month that has fuelled worries about the stability of the euro zone's third largest economy.
The 76-year-old billionaire said there was "no other solution" than a coalition and he ruled out backing a technocrat government like the one led by outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti, whom he blames for pushing Italy into recession.
"Our position has not changed," centre-right leader Berlusconi said after the meeting with Napolitano.
"Our position is the one the polls dictate: a broad coalition between the available forces ... an absolutely political government, given the negative and tragic experience we had of a technocrat government," he said.
A senior official from Bersani's Democratic Party (PD) rebuffed the offer, saying it was "very difficult" to imagine a coalition with Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PDL) party. "There are too many important issues in PDL policies that are light years from those of the Democratic Party," Luigi Zanda, head of the PD group in the Senate said.
After five days of talks this week, Bersani, who won the biggest share of the vote in the election but fell short of a majority, failed to get a deal with either Berlusconi, or Beppe Grillo's Five-Star Movement which holds the balance of power. The anti-establishment Five-Star group, which was to meet Napolitano later yesterday, refuses to back a government led by any of the big parties it blames for Italy's social and economic crisis.
But a deal between centre-right and centre-left has been blocked by Bersani's refusal to accept Berlusconi's demand to name the successor to Napolitano, whose mandate expires in May